Only nine times since Dabo Swinney took over at Clemson have the Tigers lost at Death Valley. Nine times.
The other 96 times, the Tigers have come away victorious, and knowing that, North Carolina head coach Mack Brown is fully aware of what kind of challenge awaits his Tar Heels when they embark on Death Valley this weekend.
“Ninety-six and nine, it’s hard to even say it without looking at it every time,” Brown said.
However, Swinney’s program has been susceptible this season. The Tigers are currently just 6-4, with all four losses coming in ACC play. However, three of those losses have come away from home. The lone home loss came earlier in the season, when Clemson lost a heartbreaker in overtime to No. 4 Florida State. It was the first time since 2016 that an ACC opponent beat the Tigers on their home turf.
Don’t tell Brown that the Tigers are down, though, as the veteran head coach still holds Clemson in high esteem. Especially after having seen them knock off Notre Dame and Georgia Tech the past two weeks.
“Clemson is one of the premier programs in the country,” Brown said. “They’ve recruited well every year. They’ve got great players. They’ve got great coaches. Dabo’s home record is 96-9 at Clemson, which I’d take here. I think that’s pretty good. But they’re playing so much better the last two weeks. Their whole problem was they were turning the ball over.”
As challenging as playing on the road at Clemson is, Brown and his players are looking at this as an opportunity. The Tar Heels are embracing the challenge with open arms.
“I always love going on the road and playing in great places,” Brown said. “You hate to go on the road and play where there’s nobody there. That’s where it’s boring. But I love road games with big crowds – those are the most challenging things you can have. You look at the 96-9, not many people have won there. What a great challenge for us. Nobody will think we’re going to win. Everybody will think Clemson is going to win.”
With a 4-2 record in league play, North Carolina is still mathematically alive for a spot in the ACC Championship Game. While they will also need some help to clinch a spot, one thing is imperative if they are to stay alive. They must beat the Tigers on Saturday.
“They’re old Clemson again,” Brown said. “They’re playing like a playoff team. They’re protecting the ball. They’re running the ball so well,” he said. “Cade threw the ball really well the other night. They dominated a Georgia Tech team that beat us. I sat there and watched it and said, ‘Uh-oh, the boys are back. They woke up.’”
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